Story As Need

We don't just happen to have stories. We need them. The story process involves the kinds of experiences we must talk about, experiences we cant wait to tell someone, experiences we can't stand not to talk about.

If a man comes home from work, flops into a chair, and says to his wife, "I almost didn't make it home tonight," he's had the kind of experience he needs to talk about and his wife now needs to hear. "Some idiot," he says, "cut me off on the expressway. When I blew my horn, he gave me the finger, so I gave it back to him." "No!" she says. "Yeah, and the crazy bastard pulled alongside and fired three shots into our engine." Now, can you imagine having had such an experience and keeping it to yourself? Or being the wife and not wanting to know what happened? No. Stories are how we live, how we relate—how we need to live and relate. The story process.

This need isn't limited to our own experiences. It reaches beyond us to the experiences of others several times removed—experiences we haven't witnessed, experiences that will not affect us in any way. Often, experiences that we only hear about, and that we're dying to pass along to someone else.

Suppose the same guy comes home from work and says to his wife, "Wait till you hear what this guy at work told me his buddy pulled on his wife."

Now, that's not his experience or the experience of the guy who told him, but the experience of another person he's never met. Yet he can't wait to tell his wife about what this other guy pulled on his wife. And, again, she wants to hear—and I'll bet you do too.

"He told his wife he was going on a business trip, withdrew twenty thousand dollars, and went to Vegas. He ran it up to eighty thousand dollars—then, guess what." "No!" she says. "Yep. Lost every penny."

Now a common, but curious, thing happens. They're into this other guy's story, relating and connecting, but that's not enough. They want more, to go farther, to go the limit. That's what stories are about—getting the maximum, that concentrated, intensified dose of reality. So he says, "What would you do if I did that?" And how does she respond? She might say, "Wait a minute. That's not our experience. We can't go into that," which might make sense in some way. But no, this is story. This is how we live. She doesn't miss a beat. "Castration followed by divorce," she says.

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